சைக்கோபாத் 002: பாலு மகேந்திரா
(By நட்சத்திரன் செவ்விந்தியன்)
பாலு மகேந்திரா மிகத்தவறாக உயர்த்தி மதிப்பிடப்பட்ட( Over rated) கலைஞன். ஆள் ஒரு அசலான கலைஞனே கிடையாது என்கிறார் பின் இணைப்பாக ஆங்கிலத்தில் இணைக்கப்பட்ட அரிய கட்டுரையின் ஆசிரியர். கிறிஸ்தவரும் நவீனகால ஈழத்தவருமான பாலு இலண்டனில் கல்விகற்றுவிட்டு இந்தியா வரும்போது தமிழகம் அப்போதும் ஒரு நிலப்பிரபுத்துவ சமூகமாகவே இருந்தது. பாலு இந்தியாவின் நவீன நகரமொன்றான பூனே திரைப்படக்கல்லூரியில் Cinematography கற்று தமிழகத்துக்கு வரும்போது அங்கு Sofa கலாச்சாரமே வரவில்லை. பாய்தான். ஒரு Stylist ஆன பாலு ஆங்கிலத்தை இந்திய ஆங்கில உச்சரிப்பிலன்றி standard ஆக உச்சரிக்கத்தெரிந்த பாலு தென்னகத்தில் ஒரு தினுசு. படம் எடுத்தே படங்காட்டுவது அவருக்கு இலகுவாயிற்று.
Shoba வின் தற்கொலை/கொலையை அடுத்து நடந்த வழக்கால் பாலுவால் இந்தியாவைவிட்டு வெளியேறவே முடியவில்லை. பாலு குடியுரிமை பிராடு செய்துதான் பூனே திரைப்படக்கல்லூரியில் படித்தார். இதனால்தான் எந்த வேற்றுநாட்டு சர்வதேச படவிழாக்களிலும் பாலுமகேந்திரா இறுதிவரை கலந்து கொள்ளமுடியாதிருந்தது.
(ஷோபா பசி படத்தில்)
18 வயதுக்கு முதல் shoba உடன் உறவுகொண்டு அவரை மணம்புரிந்த பாலு அதற்குமுதல் அவரின் தாயாரான நடிகை பிரேமாவுடனும் உறவிலிருந்தவர்.
இதனால்தான் பிரேமா தான் தோற்று தற்கொலைசெய்யும்வரை பாலுவோடு முடியுமானவரை யுத்தம் நடத்தியிருந்தார். இதன்விளைவாகவே shoba வின் கொலை/ தற்கொலை வழக்கு மீளத்திறக்கப்பட்டு பாலுவின் கடந்தகால பிராடுகள் வெளிவந்தன. (பொதுவாக உளவியல் Syndrome ஒன்றுண்டு. தாயும் மகளும் தாம் ஒரே ஆடவனுடன் உறவிலிருந்ததை அறியும்போது அவ்வுண்மையை சகிக்கமுடியாமல் தற்கொலை செய்துகொள்ளுவார்கள். ஜோசப் ஸ்ராலினின் மனைவி நாடெஷாவும் அவரது தாயாரும் தற்கொலை செய்துகொண்டதற்கு இதே காரணம் சொல்லப்படுவது வரலாறு)
தமிழ்ச்சூழலில் இது பத்திரிகையாளர்களால் ஆராயப்படவில்லை. கேரளப்பத்திரிகையாளரான Anita Pratab ஷோபா/ பிரேமா/பாலுமகேந்திரா வழக்கை ஆராய்ந்து Sunday இதழில் எழுதியிருக்கிறார். அவரது Island of Blood நூலிலும் இவ்விபரங்கள் உள்ளன. பாலு பெண்களின் உழைப்பைச்சுரண்டிப்பிழைத்தவர் என்பது ஆவணப்படுத்தப்பட்டது. ஒரு குழந்தை நடிகை நட்சத்திரமாகவே பாலுவைவிட பலமடங்கு அவாடுகளும் பணமும் சம்பாதித்த ஷோபாவின் செல்வங்களை பிரேமாவிடம் கலெக்ட் பண்ண பாலுவும் ஷோபாவும் வந்திருந்து இனி இன்கொம் ராக்ஸ் ஐ ஒன்றாக செய்வேண்டுமென்று கேட்டதை Anita Pratap தன்நூலில் எழுதியுள்ளார்.
மௌனிகாவின் சம்பளத்தில் தான் வாழ்ந்ததை பாலுவே வெளிப்படையாக பேட்டிகளில் சொல்லியுள்ளார். இதே பேட்டிகளில் தான் "மாடனிஸ்ற்" பாலு ஷோபாவின் வயதை ஒத்த தன் மகனின் தாயாரும் ம தன் ஒறிஜினல் மனைவியுமான அகிலாவை " உள்ளும் புறமும் அழகான வேதகால பத்தினி" என்று வர்ணித்துள்ளார்.
(பேட்டி வெளிவந்த இதழான ஆனந்த விகடன் என்பதின் அர்த்தத்தை அன்றுதான் புரிந்தேன்)
பாலுவின் மரணத்தை அடுத்து மௌனிகா வழங்கிய ஒரு பேட்டி எந்த ஒரு திறமையான பத்திரிகையாளரையும் தொடர்ந்து விசாரணை செய்ய தூண்டியிருக்கும். தமிழ்சூழலில் இதற்குத்தான் சாத்தியமில்லையே. மௌனிகா சொன்ன 2 முக்கிய விடயங்கள்.
1. 20 வயதுப் பெண்ணை பாலுமகேந்திரா "தத்து" எடுத்து வளர்த்ததால் தான் அவருடன் இறக்கும்வரை பேசாது விட்டார்
2. முதல் முறை அவரின் படத்தில் நடிக்க நடந்த நேர்முகத்தில் அவர் தன்னுடைய மகனின் மாடன் உடை(Jeans) தந்து அணிந்துவருமாறு சொல்லி படம் எடுத்தார்.
(Fashion பற்றிய அடிப்படை அறிவுடைய எவருக்கும் ஆணுடலும் பெண்ணுடலும் வித்தியாசம் என்பதால் ஆணின் Jeans பெண்ணுடலுக்கு பொருந்தாது என்பது தெரியும். உண்மை என்னவென்றால் பாலுவிடம் ஒரு modelling agent இடம் இருப்பதுபோல பெண்களின் பல்வேறு அளவுகளில் இருந்த stock இலிருந்து எடுக்கப்பட்ட jeans ஒன்றுதான் அது) மௌனிகா நிலப்பிரபுத்துவ காலத்தைச்சேர்ந்த ஒரு தமிழ் பொண்ணு. பாலு Modernist ஆன சிறிலங்கன்.
2. ஒரு சைக்கோவின் வாக்குமூலம்
Balu Mahendra: Artist, Plagiarist and Philanderer
Balu Mahendra: Artist, Plagiarist and Philanderer
(Best dressed zombie award2014:Balu Mahendra)
Roger Rosenblatt eulogized JFK Jr in Time magazine saying "When a man dies, a civilization dies with him. Whatever constituted his being--his gait, manners, tone of voice, political opinions, appearance, his particular use of language, philosophy, sense of beauty, sense of style, his personal history, ambitions, his smile--all go". That eulogy best captures the passing away of director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra. David Lean's filmed his classic 'Bridge on the river Kwai' in Sri Lanka. An impressionable young boy watching the filming was inspired to become a filmmaker. The boy, Balu Mahendra, later graduated from Poona Film Institute with a gold medal in cinematography. Indian cinematography would never be the same again. Balu got his first of many awards for his cinematography in the very first film, Nellu, by Ramu Kariat. Within 3 years Balu had struck out as director too. Balu, whose language was art, frequently crossed linguistic barriers. His first movie as director was 'Kokila' in Kannada. The debutante director garnered an award and his style of subtle movie making was noticed. Mahendran redefined Tamil cinema with 'Mullum Malarum'. He dragged Tamil cinema out of the histrionic excesses of Sivaji Ganesan, Karunanidhi, K.Balachander, K.S.Gopalakrishnan, MGR and others. Mahendran's movie introduced subtlety to the Tamil viewer. In an era when color films had debuted not too long ago it was not uncommon to splash the screen and the viewers eyes with garish costumes and in your face colors. Into that era came Balu Mahendra who helmed the camera for Mahendran's cinema and for his part introduced the Tamil viewer to silhouettes. Balu's first movie in Tamil cemented Mahendran's style. Titled 'Azhiyatha Kolangal' it was a coming of age movie about adolescent boys, their escapade, their sexual awakenings and their obsession for a comely teacher. The movie was rumored to have shades of 'Summer of '42' but it was also autobiographical. Recounting his school days in Vikatan he would say "fed up seeing the village fatsos we were enamored of slim and fair Indhu teacher"('மொத்துமொத்தென்று முறுகித் திரண்ட எங்கள் கிராமத்துத் தடிச்சிகளைப் பார்த்துப் பழகிப்போன கண்களுக்கு, இந்து டீச்சர் சற்று ஒல்லியாக, உயரமாக, சிவப்பாக, ரொம்ப அழகாக இருந்தார்கள்). A dusky Shobha would play the role of Indhu teacher. The songs were filmed with montages of Shobha and Pratap Pothen walking, hand in hand, gently romancing against a silhouette, sharing a laugh, a tease here and a tease there but never once, unlike the tradition of movies, would they lip sync the songs. Salil Chaudhary, Salilda, had scored the music. I recently watched a clip of "Summer of '42" and Salilda's music, dare I say, is inferior. The movie shocked many viewers in conservative Tamil Nadu. While Balu went mostly for subtlety he too, like Mahendran in 'Nenjathai Killathe', gave ample space for the plain ribaldry of the ever redoubtable Vennira Aadai Moorthy. Shobha would become the first scandal in Balu's life. A torrid affair ensued. Even as Shobha went on to earn the National Award her personal life was on a slide. It is said that she would act like a truant child around 'uncle' Balu Mahendra. One day Shobha committed suicide and Balu was suspected as having played a role. Balu would later tell in an interview "I was crucified'. That was unfair. Shobha was the victim not he. He added that stung by the controversy he vowed silence until after a year when he "threw down Moondram Pirai" as answer. Balu Mahendra brought to screen, with fantastic acting by Sri Devi, a platonic relationship between a nubile woman who, due to an accident loses her mind and is also amnesiac, acts childlike (not childish) and a young man who happens to meet her in a brothel but ends up rescuing her. Kamal Hasan earned a National Award for his heart rending performance in the famous climax. A third factor in the success of the movie was then sex goddess Silk Smitha. That even a sensitive filmmaker like Balu had to rely on the uninhibited oomph factor of Smitha made people chuckle at the commercial compromise. He later did accept the compromise but he added that Smitha's presence served a purpose. Kamal rebuffs Smitha's seduction and thus lends credence to the fact that he could have an asexual, sort of platonic, love with a nubile girl. Balu, sanitized his relationship with Shobha thanks to an artistic movie made with commercial compromises. Their relationship, to be sure, was anything but platonic or even the implied paternalism of 'Moondram Pirai'. Of the many movies that Balu directed only two standout for not just being uncompromising but even artistic integrity. 'Veedu' touched a chord in the hearts of many a middle class member because it spoke to their yearnings. shunning the standard Indian formula of songs the movie was made on sparse budget with dusky Archana as spinster who tries to build a small home. The puckish old man played by Chockalinga Bhagavathar was a hit. Yet, compared to Satyajit Ray's 'Mahanagar' it will remain a valiant effort not an achievement. Balu's talents as director are way overrated. Just because he sought to make movies that had a leisurely pace, lingering shots, sparse dialogues and of course lovely cinematography all of which contrasted with a sea of utter mediocrity in Tamil cinema the movies are exaggerated as artistic excellence. Fear of old age haunts any man let alone an artist. Balu made his one other uncompromising movie 'Sandhyaragam'. Literally meaning 'song of the twilight hour'. If Scorsese has a fetish for gangster movies Balu's fetish was making movies themed about extra marital affairs. He would plagiarize 'Mickey and Maud' to deliver a laugh riot in 'Rettaivaal Kuruvi' where a photographer will have two wives. Then he would turn to the subject again in a a Tamil remake of Mahesh Bhatt's 'Arth' as 'Marupadiyum'. When the heroine walks out on her husband, a movie director, learning of his affair with an actress a song wails in the background "a woman wishes to be garlanded but once, can she live with a man who garlands a woman a day, would such a marriage be civilized". By now Balu Mahendra had another affair, with Archana from Veedu, after Shobha. After 'Marupadiyum' he made forgettable movies most of which bombed in the box office. Mounika, who starred in a movie as a nymphet, would go on to become his second wife. She would support Balu in his lean years when he was reduced to making short films, based on short stories, for the drab national television. As a person who loved literature he chose excellent stories but crippled by lack of money he could get only Mounika and few low budget actors to star in the shoddily produced episodes. Kamala Hassan, another habitual plagiarizer, roped in Balu to do 'Sathi Leelavathi' that was rip off of Meryl Streep starring 'She Devil'. Balu Mahendra made movies that were either 'inspired', albeit uncredited, or totally plagiarized. 'Moodu pani' was inspired by Psycho. 'Julie Ganapathy' was plagiarized from 'Misery'. Lets remember that Balu sat on the jury for National Awards. For a man who took pride in his work and had a healthy ego to end his movies with a sign off 'A film by Balu Mahendra', this plagiarism, par for the course in Indian movies, will remain a blot. Even after many directors, including childhood friend Bharathiraja, deserted Ilayaraja, who had grown titular and stale, Balu stuck by his friend. Ilayaraja had run out of steam by the early 90's and his scoring for Balu's movies made after that had mediocre music and thanks to Raja's antics about lyric writers there were not much decent lyrics either. When an artist sacrifices perfection for the sake of relationship art suffers. Mediocrity creeps in and finally destroys. Balu Mahendra's penchant for literature did not translate into bringing any Tamil classic to movies other than the short film series. Bhim Singh brought Jayakanthan's classic tale 'Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal' to screen. We cannot speak of a Balu Mahendra 'oeuvre'. Anyone who sets Balu's directorial abilities on a pedestal has not probably had even a modicum of introduction to Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aravindan, Shahji, Ray, Benegal, Girish Karnad and others. His last movie 'Thalamuraigal' bombed at the box office. Few quoted the last words of the movie: "don't forget Tamil or this grandfather". I was surprised to see that chauvinism in Balu, a man who made movies in Hindi, Malayalam and Kannada besides Tamil. The man had lost his creative juices a decade back and the last movie only confirmed that the creator had died before the body died. In an interview he would claim, insanely, that Gandhi said "I'll not hit your body but I'll hit your brain". Cooly he would ask the demure air headed interviewer Anu Hasan "which is bigger violence? hitting body or mind?" Anu Hasan would be grinning incapable of comprehending the nonsense that Balu just spilled just to support a violent movie made by his disciple Seeman (who was sitting next to him). He was no intellectual. Like many of his compatriots he had not much to say beyond films, specifically the technical knowledge of movie making, and a smattering of literary taste. In the later years he would have another paramour after Archana. His third. In another interview he would extol that his legal wife Akila epitomized the ideal Indian woman and needs to be worshipped. She could've done well with a little less worshipping. Balu's extra-marital affairs were front and center to not just his life but to his movies too. As such they are of topical interest beyond just salaciousness. Tamils while being conservative when it comes to the morals of their fellow citizens they will tolerate, in fact applaud, their politicians and movie fraternity to flout all morals. Bigamous politicians are feted. Archana and Easwari Rao stood at the near the head of Balu's lifeless body caressing the casket. Balu's wife Akila sat in a chair nearby. Life is stranger than fiction indeed. In what caused a minor sensation Archana and director Bala prevented Mounika from seeing her beloved. This was a gross disrespect to Balu who had openly and categorically stated that he was indeed married to Mounika. Balu Mahendra, Balachander, Kamal, Rajini, Ilayaraja and many others were part of anyone who lived in Tamil Nadu in the 80's and 90's. They shaped our ideas of entertainment and art (which I had to unlearn with effort). Musing on mortality is something that hangs over my thoughts always. Just last week as I was listening to an 80's song I was thinking ruefully that they are all aging and many cannot even walk. The grim reaper awaits several of them. When Rajini had a serious health scare I felt sad. Seeing Kamal, the ever youthful and nattily dressed man, have jowls for cheeks and sagging eyelids I cannot help notice that an era had passed. The outpouring of love for Balu Mahendra, not just from his contemporaries, but amongst a younger brood of directors and cinema technologists was astounding indeed. It does speak volumes of the man. Kannadasan once ignited a rumor that he was dead just to see how many really loved him. Balu's soul can take comfort from how his cherished proteges flocked to his funeral. Balachander and Bharathiraja openly sobbed. Balachander whenever he suffered losses from his artsy movies he would produce a commercial movie, usually starring Rajini, but directed by somebody else. In his hey days Balu would scold Balachander saying "if I decide to do prostitution I'd do it myself not pay somebody else to do it". Two things irked me about the funeral though. First, for a man whose art was all about subtle aestheticism his funeral had no semblance of it. It was rambunctious, disorganized and shorn of any beauty. His body was tossed about hither and thither while being loaded onto the caravan and while being brought down. People were just milling around and jostling each other both when his body lay in state and all through the funeral. I wish there were a few sensible eulogies. Only Kamal Hasan wrote a half-decent obituary. I was disappointed to read the eulogies of Bala, Bava Chelladurai and Suka. They were moving testimonies of their relationship with their mentor but every one made it a point to record how they screamed in agony and how their families too copiously cried. This is pornography of grief. We are all mortals and we hope the reaper would not take us before we had our fill of this life. When film musician Mahesh died young of cancer Kamal wrote a beautiful obituary for his friend titled "Mahesh: Celebratory worshipper of life" (Mahesh: வாழ்க்கையின் ஆராதகன்). Even now only Kamal spoke of man being mortal and that he came to the funeral as an expression of thanks to the life that Balu had led and for the impact he made on many lives in that period. I can sympathize that for Bava, Suka and Bala it is a deep personal loss. But Balu, aged 74, had been ill for a few years. For those who claim to produce works of art it is surprising a lack of appreciation of mortality as a fact. Death is not even understood as an ever present shadow. Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman shockingly died young due to heroin overdose. He was a drug addict. Friend and Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin shocked many with a touching but blunt eulogy in Time magazine. Sorkin said "So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor, who was never outwardly “right” for any role but who completely dominated the real estate upon which every one of his characters walked, did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine." We are yet to learn how to mourn and how to measure a life.